A group of researchers and staff members from the Indiana Clinical and Translational Sciences Institutes (CTSI) were selected for a live presentation during the 2021 Association for Clinical and Translational Science (ACTS) spring conference. The presentation was called, “Growing a diverse team through training opportunities and community partnerships to increase diversity in research participation.” The team included Indiana CTSI Health Equity and Racial Justice Taskforce co-directors Brownsyne Tucker Edmonds, MD, and Sylk Sotto, EdD, Indiana CTSI co-director Sarah Wiehe, MD, MPH, Indiana CTSI Career Development, Education and Research Training (CERT) program co-director Matthew Allen, PhD, Indiana CTSI K-12 STEM program director Elmer Sanders, Indiana CTSI associate director of research communications Christine Drury, Indiana CTSI director of strategic operations Brenda Hudson, and Indiana CTSI Community Health Partnerships program manager Gina Claxton.
During the presentation, team members talked about ways the Indiana CTSI has worked through a variety of programs to promote diversity in the research workforce, such as through a K-12 STEM Program, undergraduate and graduate level training enhancement programs, and structural racism training for K‐awardees.
K-12 engagement is important in the effort to create a robust translational workforce pipeline. In 2020, two-thirds of STEM students supported by the Indiana CTSI program came from underrepresented backgrounds, based on their ethnicity, rural designation, family income and/or being first generation college students. Even though the program needed to go virtual in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, students were able to connect with mentors, work on literature and team-based research projects, and have small group and one on one check-ins with student coordinators. Because of the virtual format, local students that would have been unlikely to participate due to transportation obstacles were able to join, learning remotely from northern Indiana to Nevada.
The Indiana CTSI is also piloting two Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs: KL2 Program to Launch URM Success (PLUS) and Underrepresented Minority (URM) Program for Advising in Research and Development (UPwARD).
The PLUS training includes a faculty success program and AAMC Minority Faculty Leadership Development Seminar. In addition, the KL1/TL1 PLUS trainees will serve on key CTSI committees or shadow program directors to begin to understand the structure and work of the organization in an effort to identify talented URM trainees for future CTSI leadership opportunities.
As part of the UPwARD program, underrepresented KL2 and postdoctoral TL1 trainees will be paired with a senior faculty member at their university who serves as an internal advocate and an eminent scholar outside of their university who helps the scholar gain prominence in their discipline.
The team also discussed opportunities to support diversity in research partnerships through its community engagement infrastructure. The infrastructure already in place through the Indiana CTSI’s Community Health Partnerships program has allowed for community engagement, partnership and shared leadership across all aspects of the program and research more broadly. It has also created opportunity for students, trainees, and faculty to apply community engagement to their research either at an individual level through All IN for Health, the Patient Engagement Core, or at a community organization level through coalitions, a statewide network, or other community collaborators.
Lastly, the team discussed a process they have used for applying CTSA infrastructure and approaches to improve recruitment efforts across a diverse community through the All IN for Health program. The recruitment plan includes focusing on underrepresented populations (including seniors and Hispanics and Blacks) and working with community partners for language and messaging for study materials.